Visible Evidence V: Strategies and Practices in Documentary Film and Video

Call for Papers

Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA
4-7 September 1997

Visible Evidence is committed to a unique format: it is a small event (with a limited number of three person, non-competing panels) with much time devoted independent films/videos/and other media. The conference is meant to foster productive interdisciplinary cross-talk as well as promote exchanges among scholars, teachers and producers. We invite the participation of scholars from fields other than film or television studies: anthropology, communications and media studies, engineering, fine arts, history, journalism, sociology, literature, medicine, musicology, philosophy, law. Previous conferences have had a strong presence of feminist and queer scholarship. European scholars have participated more recently, and we hope to expand the international scope of the event.

People who have attended previous Visible Evidence conferences at Duke, USC, Harvard, and Cardiff found the opportunity for an ongoing discussion community and the development of critical threads of thought over several days unique and rewarding. Visible Evidence conferences are organized without regular organizational or institutional sponsorship by people who attended previous events. Visible Evidence regrets that it cannot subsidize conference travel or expenses.

Visible Evidence 5 will be a small conference, consisting of ten panels that will run consecutively over the four days. In addition to panels, there will be several screenings as well as a simultaneous videotheque. Those wishing to present papers or propose preconstituted panels should send proposals of approximately 250 words to

Chuck Kleinhans
Radio/Television/Film Department
Northwestern University
1905 Sheridan Road
Evanston IL USA..
FAX: 847-467-2389

Paper proposals for the following panels should be submitted directly to the chairs:

1. Documentary and the "Truth" of Sexuality Chair, Jane Gaines, Duke University

This panel will take up old questions of documentary and exposé (the candid camera) including voyeurisms of the ear and eye, going on to consider the parallels between documentary and pornography as a "truth" genre. Other topics might include the erotics of the ethnographic camera, documentary curiosity, and gendered performance.

Jane Gaines,
Duke University
Film and Video Program
107A Art Museum
Box 90671
Durham NC 27708-0671

2. Documentary and Diaspora, Chair: Kristin Barnes, Duke University

This panel will imagine documentary across the continents, transformed and transforming, expanding and contracting, trading and being traded. Topics might imagine Jean Rouch traveling from Paris to West Africa and back again or Trinh T. Minh-ha traveling between Berkeley and Dakar.

Kristin Barnes
6911 So. Euclid
Chicago, Ill. 60649 (773)643-3283

3. "Get a Life!" The Personal/Autobiographical Documentary, Chair: Michael Renov, USC

To quote Rhonda Lieberman in a recent review of new "tell all" nonfiction in the Village Voice: "In this era of 'realness' and recovery--when our two favorite national pastimes are voyeurism and shopping for an identity--who should be surprised that the memoir has emerged as the literary genre of the '90s?" This panel will consider variations on this phenomenon: the domestic ethnography, talk show confessions, and the tendency to "spill your guts" to the camera.

Michael Renov
School of Cinema-Television
University of Southern California
Los Angeles CA 900089-2211

4. Pirates and Plagiarists, Chairs: Patty Zimmerman, Ithaca College, and John Hess, JUMP CUT

Appropriation of sounds and images from the mainstream corporate media is a noticeable trend in activist and artist documentary. What are the strategies and uses of such media theft? We look for discussions that go beyond the usual tired invocations of "postmodernism" as a sufficient explanation.

Patty Zimmerman
Cinema/Photography Dept.
Ithaca College
Ithaca NY 14850

5. Latin American and Chicano/Latino Documentary, Chair: Julia Lesage

Latin American and Chicano/Latino documentaries include film, video, radio, and television as modes of production/distribution, and journalistic, anthropological, educational, personal, social-issue, and experimental genres. Critical approaches to these documentaries may consider broad historical trends, and specific national political economies, or they may focus on an exemplary work to take up theoretical, ethical and contextual issues. Of particular interest is the question of how these works are received by audiences from varying ethnic, class, language, geographical and political communities. What gets "translated" and what gets lost as the documentaries circulate?

Julia Lesage
English Dept. PLC
U of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403


The deadline for proposals is June 27, 1997. Acceptance will be announced by July 15, 1997. Please when possible submit proposals by e-mail. Information on registration and housing will be forthcoming.

Preconstituted panel proposals should be brief (250-500 words for each paper) and indicate some evidence of the panelists' expertise in the research area. Panel chairs may deliver papers in addition to chairing panels, and respondents may be part of the panel. Presentations will be strictly held to 20 minutes (including clips, slides, etc.) to facilitate discussion. Participants are encouraged to bring copies of longer versions of their papers for exchange.

We are particularly interested in papers and panels on these topics:

African and African diaspora documentary
audio documentary, including radio
documentary photography
indigenous media
virtual reality and documentary
documentary and social/political activism
early non-fiction cinema
economic and institutional histories of the documentary
the interrelation of gender, class, and race in documentary
documentary and interactive and Internet distribution/presentation

Registration information will be available at a later date. To be put on the e mail list for registration information send a request to

Chuck Kleinhans
Associate Professor, Radio/Television/Film,
Northwestern University
1905 Sheridan Rd. Evanson IL 60208
Best phone: 773-871-5742
fax: 708-467-2389